CALENDAR GIRLS – Review by Lois Alter Mark

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Yes, there was a movie called Calendar Girls, starring Helen Mirren, Julie Walters and Celia Imrie, that was released almost 20 years ago and it was based on the true story of a group of middle-aged Yorkshire women who posed for a nude calendar to raise money for charity. It was a hoot.

This new Calendar Girls – no relation – is a documentary that follows a dance troupe of senior women in Southwest Florida who also pose (clothed) for an annual calendar to raise money for charity. It’s far less titillating and funny but is, ultimately, even more delightful because it’s real.

Swedish directors Maria Loohufvud and Love Martinsen treat their subjects with great respect, taking them as seriously as the women themselves take their volunteer positions as Calendar Girls. “We’re not just old broads dancing around,” says Katherine, who’s been leading the troupe for 14 years. “We’re doing this for a reason.” That reason is to provide service dogs to veterans in need through Southeastern Guide Dogs.

The women spend more than 100 days a year performing and another 100 days practicing – a huge time commitment that’s not for the faint of heart. It takes its toll on their families, many of whom simply dismiss what they’re doing as frivolous. One woman says, dryly, “Husbands are not always supportive,” which turns out to be a major understatement as we see her own spouse try to hold her back from fulfilling her responsibilities as the troupe’s costumer.

It’s a joy to watch the Calendar Girls perform routines to everything from The Backstreet Boys’ Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) to O Come, All Ye Faithful in all their sequined, head-dressed glory. And it’s easy to see why the group – the camaraderie, the music, the movement – means so much to them.

Listening to the women talk about their lives and how aging has changed them is eye-opening. The filmmakers offer a rare, intimate look into older women’s feelings about remaining vibrant, finding their purpose and their roles as wives, mothers and grandmothers. The friends have a fascinating conversation about death that’s likely to spark conversations by viewers, as well.

Calendar Girls, like the members themselves, has so much to offer. I hope it attracts audiences and disproves the women’s belief that, once they reach a certain age, they simply become invisible.

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Lois Alter Mark

Lois Alter Mark is an award-winning writer who reviews films on Midlife at the Oasis. A former contributing writer for Entertainment Weekly for more than a decade, she also reviewed films for NickJr.com for many years. She is a member of San Diego Film Critics Society and tweets from @loisaltermark. She writes about travel for USA Today and Forbes.